e-books affecting print sales

Bookshops, E-books, and What People Are Reading Now

Here’s a link to an interesting post about how bookshop owners are dealing with e-books and how people are buying and reading.

I’d like to state that I’ve loved books all my life. But for me it’s not about the physical book. It’s about the content of the book. And when I discovered the experience of reading e-books on an e-reader, I started to love books even more. And I never thought that was possible. Reading with an e-reader is physically more satisfying, for me, especially when it’s late at night and I’m reading in bed. I can now read on a treadmill without the pages flying all over. I can read on the beach without having to worry about pages going everywhere. And I can carry my small e-reader everywhere I go and read in places like doctors offices and auto repair waiting rooms without having to lug a huge book around.

I’ve spent more money on e-books since I started using an e-reader than I’ve ever spent on print books. And I can’t imagine returning to print books unless I was absolutely forced to do so. It would be like driving a car without fuel injection, or using an electric typewriter instead of a computer.

But I think the article below is interesting, and I think bookshop owners are watching very closely. For me, the perfect bookstore would help me buy and read e-books. I addressed some of the comments in the article from a reader’s point of view.

Local bookstores not worried about e-book effects

BY ALLIE WRIGHT | MARCH 03, 2011 7:20 AM

Kelly Smith knows she likes books. But she’s not yet sure how she feels about their electronic cousins.

“I feel very satisfied with the experience of reading a physical book,” said Smith, a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. “It’s sort of a perfect experience for me already.”

I’ve always felt the same satisfaction. But even more now with an e-reader because it’s a more comfortable experience.

But despite some locals’ hesitation, many have made the switch from hard-copy to digital. Due to the down economy and changing industry, the bookseller Borders recently filed for bankruptcy.

The economy had nothing to do with the reason why I switched to e-books. Borders had nothing to do with it. I tried an e-reader out, enjoyed it, and wound up buying two. It wasn’t a difficult decision for me. And like I said, I’m loving the reading experience even more.

But several local bookstores owners, both that do and do not sell e-books, said they are not worried about the potential effect e-books could have on their sales, especially in such a literary city.

Nialle Sylvan, the owner of the Haunted Bookshop, 203 N. Linn St., said she thinks books will never be completely replaced.

Sylvan, who has owned the business for six years, said she thinks larger chain stores that sell mostly bestsellers will be more affected by e-books than her store.

I don’t completely understand the thought process here, with regard to larger chain stores as opposed to small stores. If more and more people start reading e-books across the board, and a bookshop isn’t selling e-books, does it matter whether the shop is large or small?

“It’s my job to find what people like and make sure it’s here when they want it,” she said. Her shop doesn’t offer e-books.

Unlike larger stores, Sylvan said she focuses on offering unique books that are harder to find.

I get this…to a certain extent. I’ve tried to find “The Front Runner” as an e-book, but haven’t seen it anywhere for download. But that’s not going to make me run out and buy the print book. I’ll just find something else I like and wait for the book I want to be pubbed in digital format. Eventually, they all will. Almost every single print book I was ever in is now being made into an e-book. And I never thought I’d see that day. (I’m also not making any money on any of them…but that’s another post.)

“I know I’m spoiled because I live in a City of Literature, where people just love their books,” said Sylvan, surrounded by the approximately 40,000 books in her store.

Iowa City is one of just four UNESCO Cities of Literature in the world.

“I think the rest of the world recognizes how important books are in [Iowa City’s] culture,” said, Jeanette Pilak, the executive director for UNESCO City of Literature in Iowa City.

Again, I’m confused. I live in Bucks County, PA, a half hour from Princeton and between New York City and Philadelphia. We love our literature here. I was an English major in college. What does this have to do with e-books? The content of a print book that was published ten years ago is the same as the newly released digital version. The same goes for all e-books…the content is the same. That’s what I’m interested in as a reader: content. That’s where I get my satisfaction, from content.

In 2009, e-books overtook audiobooks with sales reaching $313 million, according to the Association of American Publishers.

I get this. I’m not a fan of audio books. For me, it’s not a reading experience it’s a listening experience.

Smith, a librarian at the Writers’ Workshop, said though e-readers have caused some anxiety about the future of the publishing industry, they may improve publicity for authors.

“As a writer, I would not begrudge the use of technology,” said Smith, the author of several poems and journals.

And Sylvan continues to trust physical books in an age when she said electronic versions aren’t as reliable. She noted files can be lost and electronics require upgrades.

You could say the same thing about all technology, but we’re still moving forward with it. Electricity goes out sometimes and we go back to candles for a few hours. But we don’t like it, and can’t wait until the electric is turned on again. And, print books can be stolen or lost, or destroyed by fire or water. Nothing is 100% reliable…unless maybe the book is written on a stone tablet. But more, if the electric goes out, which it has for me, I have my backlit e-reader to pass the time and I don’t even need candles.

“It just isn’t quite the same when you go to give somebody a Christmas present, and they have to download it,” Sylvan said.

I did all my Christmas shopping online last year and the year before. It was easier, I save time, and I saved money. If anyone wants to send me a gift I have to download, feel free. I’ll love you just as much, if not more.

Another Iowa City bookstore, Prairie Lights, 15 S. Dubuque St., recently teamed up with Google to make e-books available to customers.

Now we’re getting somewhere. I like this. I need this help sometimes. And I like knowing there’s a place I can go to get this kind of help.

Jan Weissmiller, the store’s owner, said any title can be ordered and read with any e-reader besides the Amazon Kindle.

“Obviously, if e-books are one thing people want to read, we want to make them available,” she said.

This one line makes sense to me. And I hope all business owners take Jan’s advice. I’d certainly shop in her store any time!!